To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

~My Photo Blog~

  ...Worth a Thousand Words

Thursday, February 09, 2012
I never thought I would feel this way for a puny, small, tiny little thing. I didn’t even know about its existence till three weeks ago, when my brother got a huge cage and this tiny wonder, the little cockatiel bird. My brother told me it was a specie from Australia and he pronounced it as ‘cocktail’. Being my usual pragmatic self, not given to excitement when I see something or someone new, I looked at it detachedly, and went about my stuff. When everybody stared at it and cooed at it, I didn’t bother to notice, and when nobody was around, I went near it and thought it was quite a cutie, with a little crest on its head and orange cheeks. Most of all I liked it’s innocent babe-in-the-woods look. I wanted to call it ‘cookie’, short for cockatiel, and my brother insisted on calling it birdie; what a non-name, like calling a girl ‘girlie’, I thought. I decided to call it cookie, no matter what he said, and I decided cookie would want to be called cookie, if I called it often enough. I soon gave up my act of not being interested in the new creature, and had animated conversations with my mom about it. We discussed its eating habits, sleeping habits, playing habits, almost like it was a baby (I don’t have experience with babies but I know how moms talk about them). Things started settling into a nice pattern with cookie joining me for early morning tea (she seemed to wake up when we did and whistled so loudly that we had to wake up when she did anyway). I felt nice saying a bye to her in the morning and I don’t know if she whistled back at me when I called out cookie, but I liked to think she did. I started looking up articles on what cookie may enjoy eating or doing. I would call home in the afternoon to check up on what cookie was up to. My brother said she needed to be let out of the cage for some time during the day and then let back in. My brother did this at first and my mom, who being brought up in Mangalore is rather handy with these things, took up the task when he wasn’t around. During the weekend, though I wasn’t scared of cookie when she was out...I still felt like being in some other room when cookie was let out of the cage. When I warned the folks about what if she flies away, they had a very philosophical attitude: what if she does? Then maybe she wants to be free and let her be. None of us have had any experience with pet birds and I couldn’t help feeling that yes, wasn’t cookie really bored sitting in the cage all day? What if she did feel like getting away? Should we cage her because we want to? And another voice would say, but could she survive outside…? here we were taking such good care of her, talking to her, petting her, feeding her, who would take care of cookie outside? I didn’t know what was right. But I couldn’t bear the whole shock of what if she just flew away. And somehow, being oblivious in the other room when she was out, I could ignore these conflicting feelings. I would feel glad to see cookie back inside her cage later. And slowly, after a few days, my mom told me she had started going inside the cage on her own. I felt better knowing this, almost like a certain indication that she liked being with us too.

Every night, it was so funny to see cookie sleep perched on that exact same spot in the cage. It tickled me and pleased me, I don’t know why. I couldn’t understand how a bird could have a sweet spot like that. Or maybe because I like consistency, this consistency in her habits quite appealed to me. One day last week I remember how she danced a little jig from one end of the tiny pole to the other when I walked in home in the evening. I don’t know whether she was happy to see me, but she made me very happy. How I cooed to it! One day when it seemed to be growing too cold, I moved her cage a little further over the window, where the view outside was a little blocked… what a little ruckus she made! And then I moved it back and she was quiet. She used to be too quiet after sunset, perched on its favourite spot, and come sunrise, she would whistle and jump and gorge on the grains and other little tidbits we kept for her, like she had been hungry for weeks rather than the night. My mom would sit next to her with her toast and tea, and cookie would jump so much, that mom just had to give her a little bit of toast.

Today, as usual, I waved goodbye to cookie in the morning. Around afternoon mom called frantically, ‘Ayyo! cookie has flown away, what do we do?’ I knew the inevitable would happen someday. She had let cookie out of her cage as usual but this time instead of climbing down from the fan, she just whizzed out of the opening in the curtains, even out of the grills surrounding our window. Mom is an unreasonable optimist and never really thought she would fly away through those. She seemed to be upset and hurt—maybe she never really meant that if cookie did fly, may be it was alright if she wanted to. Suddenly she seemed to realise that truly, she was gone. No cookie, only an empty cage. I didn’t know what to say, what to do to make cookie come back. She couldn’t see her around, and she had frantically looked outside. Doing a bit of Google search, the only sensible suggestion I found was to keep the cage outside with some bird food. Maybe she would recognise the familiar home and come back. That’s what I told mom but doesn’t look like something positive has come of it. The more I read the Google pages about lost cockatiels, my heart sank. I wanted to read about it because I couldn’t think of anything else, and I wanted to read something to give me comfort, but there was so much that made my heart sink. It doesn’t matter if cookie doesn’t come back but let nothing happen to my little baby, let it be taken care of, let it only find a kind soul, let it get food to eat, that’s all I ask for. I read that owners usually clipped their birds’ wings that they wouldn’t fly (it almost feels like cutting legs!), but cockatiels are strong fliers and if they get away, they rarely find their way home, because they don’t have homing instincts. It looks like we have lost her, never to see her anymore. I am thinking of all the sweet little moments I had with her over the last three weeks; I feel rather heartbroken as if suddenly our little one is gone and we can’t do anything.

Truth is, when my brother brought her home, I didn’t want to get used to her or get attached to her… I wanted to be aloof because I cynically thought, birds die soon… so why get attached to something that wouldn’t be around for long…silly me never realises that things never last…and then I was told how the cockatiel lives for 15-20 years… and that pleased and reassured me… cookie wouldn’t die soon after all…I started imagining how our cookie will grow old with us, how it would grow fond of us, how it will recognise us, how maybe it will even start talking a little, how it would look forward to being petted by us… I started thinking so far ahead… and how I loved her day by day, how my heart grew warm for her every day... and now, there is a dull ache…thinking about the dear little thing, gone, God alone knows where… I am missing its soft whistle and merry jig and how it perched itself in the same spot every night… I feel heavy about the thought of walking home and not finding her there, in her cage… no cutting small veggies to feed it, no enjoying her dance of delights, no discussing what she was up to, no smiling at its little figure at night, no waking up to its sounds… how I miss her already! Maybe she will come back, maybe she won’t… all I ask is, she may be safe and sound and loved wherever she is… I never understood people’s love for pets, and never thought I would… but now I do…I never thought there could be love where there was no deeper understanding…but cookie taught me something…that love sometimes transcends the mind and reaches the heart directly…will miss my cookie…
Monday, February 06, 2012
I was cleaning a room and, meandering about, approached the divan and couldn't remember whether or not I had dusted it. Since these movements are habitual and unconscious, I could not remember and felt that it was impossible to remember - so that if I had dusted it and forgot - that is, had acted unconsciously, then it was the same as if I had not. If some conscious person had been watching, then the fact could be established. If, however, no one was looking, or looking on unconsciously, if the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been. [Leo Tolstoy's Diary, 1897]

And so life is reckoned as nothing. Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.

— Excerpt from Victor Shklovsky’s ‘Art as Technique’

Most of our lives seem to be full of ‘habitualized’ or ‘automatic’ activities, things that don’t provide us any sensation at all, things that we go about doing without knowing what we are doing. We go through the motions of everyday living, so to speak, with nothing to interrupt its ebb and flow, or make us start from our unconscious reverie. We yearn for ‘sensation’, whether it is in books, in movies, in music, in travels, we want to feel ‘alive’, to consciously ‘experience’ a thing. Which is why we are drawn to novelty, to excitement, to adventure, to experiences that we are not ‘familiar’ with, and which promise the maximum ‘sensation’. Shklovsky talks about how this desire for ‘sensation’ is exploited even in art, by making objects ‘defamiliar’ so that we are forced to take notice, to actually experience or perceive them. Techniques in art are used so that the same objects or experiences, though familiar and habituated, may still kindle ‘sensation’. Poets come up with novel ways of describing the beloved or the sunset, and each time, it is like seeing the beloved for the first time, or watching the sunset with new eyes…the same experience affords sensations as if we were experiencing it for the first time. We see it as if it were something new, we actually ‘perceive’ its beauty.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder how a balance between monotony and sensation could be best achieved. I am convinced that a balance is important, because just as a person cannot be eating rich food all the time because it affords ‘sensation’ (in any case the sensation would disappear when one gets habituated, and damage one’s health too), so also, one cannot be drenched in sensation all the time, to feel like one is ‘living’ every moment. At the same time, one cannot be going on living in monotony, going about work that does not involve the mind or heart at all, and deadens one’s spirit so that one may as well not be ‘living’ or ‘consciously experiencing the sensation of life’.